Bundies or Bundlesmen, are indigent men, women, and children who travel the roads and railways of southern Benacia, often with a mangy cur or hovercat, with all their worldly goods carried in a rope bound bundle. Typically of Lywind or Lakhesian heritage, although their brotherhood typically remains open to those whose misfortunes and failures cast them into vagrancy on the margins of society. Legally Bundlesmen are denizens until such time as they make submission and become Loyal Subjects of the Kaiser, or else are convicted of some offence rendering them eligible for community servitude. Although widely considered a criminal tribe, especially in Modan, there is not at present any serious thought given to declaring them protected persons.
The bundle was typically formed from an oilskin rain cape, of the variety issued to auxiliaries, which could also serve as a ground sheet or bivouac roof. Inside the bundle was typically to be found, a spare set of peasant trousers and an over-shirt, along with a necessary needle and darning thread for making improvised repairs. Along with a few token keepsakes or a tattered book, the bundle would also contain the ubiquitous hardship staple of a Bundy's diet - stale rye bread and mouldy goats cheese. An axe would be slung on the rope which served as a strap for the bundle, while a separate haversack containing ammunition, tobacco. A rifle or revolver, invariably obsolete or a reproduction of dubious provenance, is also an essential requisite of the Bundy's trade. The only other implements that a true bundlesman will have to his name is a Hawthorne hobble-stick, serving double duty as a cudgel, and a wrought iron kettle, usually patched, carried in either hand.
Bundies are notorious for their feuding with Upland Lachs and the Octalunes. Usual causes for their tumults include disputes over the control of various taverns, themselves crucial for determining who may licence and tax the beggars and pickpockets of a particular Bailiwick. Other times the themes of reciprocal wife and sheep stealing repeats itself in the narrative accounts of why the different groups are trying to murder each other at any given moment.
Any man or woman can be a tramp, but to be a Bundlesman requires being initiated into one of their notorious kitchen dens, a conclave of all the Bundies in any given territory. The initiate is obliged to endure whatever tortures and indignities the hotting crowd sees fit but once that person is "grogged" - forced to drink a noxious potion of rum and wormwood, along with whatever else dubious looking happened to be in peoples pockets as the cup was passed around - he or she is a Bundy for life and can count upon the fellowship of the road in all circumstances. The means by which a "False Bundy" is recognised is not known to outsiders but the remains of those "un-grogged" impostors, staked out on hillsides for the carrion birds, most certainly are.
Bundies earn their trade going from farm to farm, sometimes covering as much as 40 rixons in a day, looking for casual work, usually tending livestock, cropping, or gathering firewood in return for a meal and some Erb. In the event of a farm having no work to offer, the Bundy would usually be given enough mutton, flour, and dripping to tide him over to the next farm, sometimes 80 rixons distant, especially on the steppe. Any farmer who was imprudent enough to fail the feed a Bundy might find his outhouses set alight, his fencing torn down, and sheep stolen - once word of a hard customer got around that farmer could be sure of the malice of every bundlesman in the bailiwick, if not the whole county-region.
The number of Bundlesmen on the road varied greatly according to the season and the state of the economy - invariably their numbers swelled when the factories in Mishalan and along the Red Elwynn between Shirekeep and Musica were no longer hiring. In spite of it being a life of poverty, hardship, and danger, there remains a hard core of Bundies who experience in the life on the roads that rare sensation, for a Benacian at any rate, of relative freedom.